Dear Master Gardener: What a relief it is! My yard did not become the black pit I feared following the extremely low temperatures we experienced in March.

Dear Pepto: I think we all agree. Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful? I observed that in my yard. Some azaleas were severely burned and, yet, in another section of the yard in just a matter of two weeks, the azaleas were in full bloom and healthy as I have ever seen in the past. Many of the dogwoods survived unscathed and are perfectly beautiful. Unfortunately, the fruit crops were hit the hardest. Peaches and blueberries are going to be in short supply this year. March is over so let’s put the cold behind us and think spring. Easter is only two weeks away so then we can begin to plant in earnest. If you need to do a soil sample, now is the perfect time to do it. It only takes about 10 days to receive your results so go ahead and collect some soil from the area you plan to plant and take it to your Clemson Extension office for sampling. The Orangeburg office is on Henley Street behind the Orangeburg County Library. The St. Matthews office is on Huff Drive adjacent to the courthouse. The cost is only $6 and well worth the price.

There really is no way to know what you need without a sample. For example, what if you go ahead and add lime and you already have too much already?

Dear Master Gardener: I have enjoyed my camellias and my azaleas, but I don’t know what to do now. Any ideas?

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Dear Puzzled: After your azaleas and camellias have bloomed is the time to prune. I know you are just dying to get those clippers out and get to work. Camellias don’t require much pruning, but azaleas appreciate a good haircut to keep them in check. You really can’t hurt an azalea. You can prune to within two feet of the ground this time of year if you wish. Please don’t cut them into little round balls or flat hedges. If that is the look you like, great, but buy a boxwood and let your azaleas spread out in a natural flow.

Now is an excellent time to spray for insects on both azaleas and camellias. Make sure to identify the insect and use the correct pesticide. You may remember that I have said you need to spray more than once because insects hatch and you need to kill the second “batch.” Always read the label and spray according to the directions. Pesticides kill harmful and beneficial insects; therefore, spray only when needed. If you are fortunate enough to have rhododendrons, do not prune them yet. They are in the azalea/camellia family, but they have not bloomed. There are fertilizers on the market especially designed for azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons so keep your eye out for them.

Now is also an excellent time to select your azaleas from the stores because you can see the color while they are in bloom. Some are even repeat bloomers. Read your directions carefully when planting azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons and irises. These plants do not like to be set in a deep hole. Make the hole wide and deep, but fill the hole with soil and set the plant up high. Forty years ago when we built our house, we bought azaleas that a local gentleman rooted at his house as a hobby. Those azaleas are at least 12 feet tall today, and I have cut them nearly to the ground several times. They have really given us a lot of pleasure.

This column by Kay Williams (the Flower Lady) is designed to answer your gardening questions. Send questions to ktheflowerlady@gmail.com or to news@timesanddemocrat.com.

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